Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why I am not using Facebook anymore

The reason I am not using Facebook anymore is because they have removed too many privacy settings.
- Your friends list is visible to everyone.
- Your group and page memberships are visible to everyone.
- You cannot block Facebook activity from appearing on your wall.
- You cannot prevent strangers from friending you.

These things would be ok in Twitter - because things have always been public, but not in Facebook.

This Valleywag article gives a good explanation of it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Little Secret by Duncan Fairhurst

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (March 8, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0340932686
ISBN-13: 978-0340932681

This was a challenging book to read: both confronting and explicit. It is an autobiographical account of the sexual abuse the author suffered at the hands of his father and how it affected his life growing up and becoming a man. It concludes in 2005 with his father finally being given a prison sentence.

Writing this account was obviously a major catharsis for the author. Duncan goes into great detail about the ambivalence he felt for his father: hating the abuse, but loving his father. For much of his youth, the author did not even realise that it was abuse and not something loving fathers did with their sons. It is a gripping story. It felt good to witness Duncan "growing up", learning about himself and finally reaching a point where he understood that he was actually abused and felt ready to seek justice.

I wonder what his mother and sister thought about the book? Duncan's writing shows compassion for them in hindsight, but also a deep reservoir of animosity. He did not feel loved by his mother or sister, and details many spiteful moments he had with them. Every unkindness at the hands of his mother and sister exacerbated the suffering he felt from his father, because it drove him closer to his father; the only one who seemed understand and love him.

In this book, Duncan is defined by the misery of his past. As much as he is a survivor, he explains his every anguish and self pitying moment in terms of the abuse he lived through. He is a victim still in pain, trying to become a better person.

In his book, Duncan is very critical of the police officers who handled his case. Essentially he wrote that they were inattentive and did not show enough care towards the case, the victims and his family. The police officers sued Duncan and the publishers for libel and won an apology and an undisclosed amount of money.

Read about Duncan's disappointment with the police that handled his case in the Guardian article: Unfinished business.

Read about how Duncan was forced to apologise to the police he criticised when the same officers brought a libel case against Duncan and the publishers: Sex abuse victim's apology to police on (Duncan is from Lincolnshire).

See this book (and my review) on

Monday, November 02, 2009

When Nebulous (my 25 year old cat) broke her arm

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This happened on a very stressful weekend, Saturday August 15th 2009. It was the beginning of a fortnight full of bad news.

On that Saturday, Süheyla was out working and I was at home, trying to clean up because the owners of our house were coming on the Sunday. It was such a windy day; I was taking paper rubbish out and Nebulous tried to follow me. The wind slammed the door on her arm and she screeched.

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When I turned around, she was twitching her arm, trying to lick it. I swore loudly and started to panic. It quickly became obvious from Neb's movement that it was serious. Talya was there and calmed me down. We rang the emergency vet and took a taxi there.

The X-rays clearly showed both bones in her foreleg snapped. The vet seemed such a hard woman. She was outlining the options (including putting her down) and kept reiterating that Neb was so old (25) and could die from the shock, pain, anaesthetic, infection.. and that her bones might not heal at all. After a while I asked her "Are you suggesting we put Nebulous down?" I was feeling pressured to make an awful decision. At this, the vet huffed up and became visibly annoyed. "I am not suggesting that - just trying to make sure you understand there are so many risks". She didn't seem so hard after that.

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They put a heavy splint on her leg and wrapped it in a light synthetic substance that set a bit like plaster. Six weeks she would have it on before her leg was to be reviewed.

For six weeks after breaking her arm, Nebulous walked around with this heavy splint. It was so bulky and heavy that she literally dragged her arm between her back legs as she walked.

Can you just
pat me now? Please?

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Somehow it didn't stop her from climbing up (and down) from our bed and couch. This is one tough cat! She even ventured outside a couple of times. I was horrified when I came home one day to find her peering up at me from the porch.

I could tell she was uncomfortable though - she couldn't even keep it clear when she went to the litter. Frequently we cleaned her splint as best we could. I tried out various things to wrap around it: a plastic bag fastened with rubber bands or sticky tape didn't work; glad wrap was a really terrible idea - try getting a cat to sit still while you do that! Eventually we settled on socks, changed almost every day. Süheyla's suggestion (which came too late) was to use a condom! Not sure how I was going to explain that to the vet (or chemist).

She needed lots of pats during this time..

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After the six weeks were up, the vet removed the splint and X-rayed her leg again. The bones were still broken - no healing whatsoever! I felt so bad for her, trying to imagine what her options were.

Amputation.. putting her down.. or put a metal plate in her arm to hold the bones together. This is what we did.

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Her leg was so tender when she first came home. She was purring a lot and I couldn't bear to touch her for fear of bumping her leg. It freaks me out that her leg is still broken, just held together.

Nebulous tried to sleep without disturbing her still broken arm, after the vet put a plate in to hold the bones together.

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This was a very uncomfortable week for her and I was (still am) cringing each time I watch her walk on that broken leg

She seems much better now. She walks ok, no running anymore. And she still climbs up and down from the bed, but very slowly and carefully. If she sees me on the bed, she will miaow patiently until I pick her up and drape her over my chest, where she can pur and, well, dribble.

I am glad she can still do that.

Update. Friday 5th of August, 2010. This is what happened when we took Nebulous to the vet to have an ingrown nail cut on her bad arm: Paid the Cost to be the Boss.

Reach Access Flosser

25/05/2010 12:20:39 PM - Amazon seller charges $AUD649.10 shipping and handling? But Ritchies stock these now.

Reach Access Flosser Refill Pack, Fresh Mint, 28 Disposable Heads

These are the indivdual Reach floss tips that are placed on the tip of the Reach Floss Holder Reach Access Flosser - there is a powered one available, but I only use the plastic "pick", a bit like a very tooth brush that these heads snap into.

I have tried and despised every flossing product my supermarket and dentist and chemist sells, until now.

Ordinary floss is terrible to use: I stretch open my mouth as wide as possible while forcing both fists down my gullet to floss the back teeth. Yuch and painful.

Toothpics? Come on! Even the plastic toothpicks with bristles and curvy bits. Come on to the power to 2!

For a while I was using a floss device my dentist sold, Xylifloss which featured floss on a wheel in a plastic dispenser that could lock the floss in place and slide quite easily in between my teeth. It had the reach right but the mechanism was bad: the lock frequently broke which meant the floss slipped (I had to go back to the dentist once when I had floss stuck between my teeth so bad it was painful). And I still had to force the thing at right angles into my mouth to get at the back teeth.

And then came Reach's Access Flosser with disposable heads. This product is brilliant; the ONLY product I have found that makes flossing every crevice between my teeth easy. Overall, it is more expensive than all other products I have seen but I do not care. Each head lasts one use, but it so easy to get in between every tooth I am amazed this product is not made compulsory in every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, doghouse and dentist in Australia. It first showed up on the shelves of Coles (a big supermarket chain in Aus) and then all the supermarket chains - and I loved it. But a few months ago it became unpopular or something (stupid) and now no supermarket sells it. I asked Coles if they could bring it back and their only response was "it is deleted!". Purely on the basis of this response, I won't shop at Coles anymore.

So, Amazon and Reach: thank you!

See this product (and my review) on Amazon.

Update: (25/05/2010 12:20:39 PM) just tried to re-order this product from the same seller in Amazon and found that for some reason, the Shipping and Handling cost for a $AUD62.69 product comes to $649.10!

Luckily, I have now found that Ritchies IGA have began stocking these again. Yay!

Cleo by Helen Brown

ISBN-10: 1741759072. Publisher: Arena

*This review contains spoilers*

I really enjoyed this book. It grabbed me from the first moment with a picture of an ultra-cute kitteh on the front (Basement cat never looked so cute), and the blurb promising a sad tale with a thread of joy. Just what I am looking for this year for some reason. Thanks to Mum for buying it for me.

Well, it was indeed a sad tale, with a joyful thread; it is in fact is Helen Brown's true story. I shared her rendered heart when Sam, her eldest boy, was struck down. I felt the warmth grow with each new antic of Cleo. I also felt increasingly annoyed each time she let loose her inner voice whining about some aspect of the budding relationship she was developing with Phillip.

It is strange that Cleo is and is not the main character of this book. She grows up with the family, and "teaches" them how to focus on the positive. Right up until the end, when she is a 24 year old queen cat!

I will always hold this book dear to my heart because of the honesty Helen showed in this telling. The most striking moment in the whole book for me is this paragraph in the first 50 pages:

It was no easier for Steve. A few days after the accident I awoke under a waterfall of his tears. He'd never cried in front of me before. I should have reached out and embraced him then, but I was half-awake, unprepared. Distraught, momentarily confused. I simply asked him to stop. I didn't imagine the request would be taken literally and he'd never express sorrow in front of me again.

This paragraph alone describes what has become of the relationship with her first husband while they are both wallowing in sorrow. I was angry at Helen here: she *broke* her man; but on a deeper level I knew it was just the skin of a bubble bursting. It is a portentous moment of stark narrative clarity in a sea of misery that can only be told in hindsight.

A wonderful book - it makes me want to write the story of my cat, Nebulous - a grand 26 years old and still kickin (purring)!

See Helen Brown's website, upon which you can read the Cleo Launch Speech, Melbourne Australia, September 2009 and a page of letters people have written to Helen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jedda's Story - not a Chihuahua

Jedda loves a
good belly rub!

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One day Mum called me with a strange request. "Robert, would you like a dog? It's not a Chihuahua!" This was peculiar: Mum rescues Chihuahuas after all.

I asked Mum why she picked up a non-Chihuahua in the first place. She told me the request came from an elderly lady, Marie, who lived in a flat by herself but was being moved into a care facility that wouldn't allow pets. (Why do they break up families like that?!)

Walk now?
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Mum explained, "The dear grandmother described the dog to me; black and white, wiry hair, medium size. Her name is Jedda. I knew it wasn't a Chihuahua and said I could only take Chihuahuas in. Marie burst into tears over the phone, 'What am I going to do? I have no one else.' My heart broke and I couldn't say no."

Marie had loved Jedda for five years; Jedda was the light of her life and beloved by her neighbours as well. But recently things had gotten bad and she couldn't walk Jedda any more. Marie couldn't even perform the most basic tasks for herself without agony. Her family were moving her into a home.

Walk on a sunny
Melbourne day.

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Marie told Mum that Jedda was a very active dog: she needed walking every day plus she was the smartest doggie in the world. I have heard this before - the previous Chihuahua I took from Mum (since re-homed) was a "specially trained Hearing Dog" who would tell you when the phone rang or someone came to the door. We got him home and I rang our number from my mobile. The pudgy little fella sat there staring up at us while the phone rang and his tail swished once or twice. I swear the look on his face was either "what's that sound?" or "I know you can hear - answer the phone already!"

The paperwork was signed quickly and Marie said she wanted to let Jedda say good-bye to her favorite neighbour. She said "Let's say good-bye to George!" and opened the door. Jedda bounded out and down the driveway - her tail wagging fast enough to blur - turned left and waited at the gate to George's house, two doors down. Well, that sounds smart to me.

In our local dog
park, looking out for
other doggies.

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So we took Jedda, who is not a Chihuahua, but a scruffy, wire haired terrier. I walk her often through our local dog park. When she meets any doggie bigger than her she tries to boss them around. There is the initial "I smell you, you smell me", then she puffs out her chest and attempts to stare down (up) the other doggie, and sometimes gives a bark and growl! Off the leash I have never seen her do this, which I think attests to that intellect of hers.

Patiently waiting for
us to finish a coffee and
continue the walk!

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When I come home she is the first to greet me, barking and jumping and so outrageously happy that I cannot help but smile and play with her, no matter what sort of day I have had. She is 10 now, and deaf enough that I have to shout to be heard - so some days I have to search her out for that first greeting, which is nevertheless just as ebullient. Her sight is going too. Walking her at night, she does not bound out in front as much as she used to, and often stays so close to me that she is underfoot.

Whenever I am putting shoes or shorts on, suddenly she is there, sitting and looking at me with expectant eyes and tremulous tail, knowing the next step is to get the leash. I try and trick her by hiding the leash and holding out empty hands. She isn't fooled: she has worked out that if I am teasing her about it, I will end up walking her, irrespective of whether I have the leash in my hands. After each walk, she gets a Schmakos, and looks at me just as expectantly every time we get inside the house again.

Belly rub now?
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Like most other dogs, she doesn't like to be bathed and will hide under the lounge room table when she hears me knocking around in the laundry. Once in the tub she is pliant enough, except that if I don't keep one hand on her at all times she will very deliberately shake water all over me! After a bath comes a long brushing, which she loves even more than walks. Each time the brush goes down her spine and touches that sweet spot on her back where her tail bone starts, Jedda shivers in such a way that I am rather jealous!

Oh, you want to take
more photos.. ok. *sigh*

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I have had dogs around me most of my life, cats too. It is marvellous how different they are, and how each fits so perfectly into my life and family. Jedda is an endless source of boisterous joy, bringing laughter to us every time she wags her tail or rolls over to show her belly. My cat, Nebulous, on the other hand, is a much calmer source of contentment. Whenever I lie down on the couch, she curls up on my chest, purrs (and dribbles - she is 25!) and snoozes like a small furry massage device for the soul. Whenever I am not lying down she sits on the floor in front of me and miaows until I do!

I often wonder about Marie; how is she doing, does she miss Jedda - and I find myself wondering the same about Jedda. Does she remember Marie, and miss living with her? Once, while walking down the street with Jedda I passed an elderly lady with white hair and a very friendly face. Jedda jumped and ran up to her in a way I have never seen her do with any other stranger. I think she does remember Marie, and if that's a conceit on my part, I am glad for it. Because when I look into Jedda's eyes, I see someone looking back at me. My friend.

I dedicate this story to my Mum and Dad, who rescue Chihuahuas (and the occasional non Chihuahua). Find out more about them at the Chihuahua Rescue Victoria website.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell
by Warren Ellis and Guice Jackson.
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: DC Comics (30 Jun 2006)
ISBN-10: 1401209440
ISBN-13: 978-1401209445

Find this on Amazon.

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell is a Justice League of America comic by Warren Ellis and Guice Jackson. It features Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. It also features some of the most stunning artwork I have ever found in a comic book.

Like I said, the artwork is amazing. There is a thoroughly realistic look to the human characters, and Lois in particular is striking: smoking hot facial expressions and exquisite depiction of her posture, even reclining on a couch. She is truly beautiful, and not in a smutty way. From the first few pages I was hooked on the treatment of Superman and Lois; more adult and serious - not dark per se, just "down to earth" (pun intended). However, Lois and Superman were the only characters I got this good feeling for, probably because none of the other characters had a "partner" of any sort to contrast with.

Secondly, I was pleased to find a decent level of science fiction in this comic. I readily admit that I am not well read in comics, so maybe this is a norm for super hero comics, but I don't think it is. Superman uses his super-vision to see his environment at a microscopic level; he discovers a weakness in the antagonist by analysing the wavelengths of visual signals. The Oracle at the Bat Cave uses a network of super-hero analysts to decode messages. Some of the sci-fi elements seemed natural to me, like Superman using his super vision to look at the microscopic world. Some elements seemed a bit dodgy, such as telepathic broadband! Does that mean there are some super heroes stuck on telepathic dial up??

A third element I enjoyed was the brief introduction to Lex Luthor as a hard hitting business man who had made himself president of America. I imagine he will be a serious antagonist in this role in future issues.

What I didn't enjoy so much was the overall story. It was too short. There wasn't enough of it to really suck me in, to involve me emotionally in what the characters were going through. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of the relative brevity of the comic. Maybe it needs to be "novel" length to get really serious with the story. Or perhaps Watchmen spoiled me; having read Watchmen recently, I secretly expect the same depth in every comic.

I thoroughly enjoyed this comic for the artwork and science fiction concepts used. I found the story deficient, but not so much that I regret buying the book. 4 out of 5.